Willyum Beck got the call from Vfiles.com director—a crowd-sourced fashion website where he’d been uploading examples of his styling work—on a Saturday. Would he be interested in styling a big job with a mystery client? If so, he’d need to hop on a plane (on his own dime) and be in New York within 24 hours.
Only after he said yes did Beck discover the client's identity: a fellow by the name of Kanye West who needed help styling the 1200 models for the Yeezy 3 Adidas collaboration presentation at New York Fashion Week. Having only left the ad world as an art director to become a stylist a few months ago, you could say this was kind of a big deal. So Beck hopped on a plane the next morning and met with West’s head stylist, Renelou Padora, who filled him in on the enormity of the task.
The show was in three days at Madison Square Garden, with an expected attendance of 18,000 people, and Beck would be on a team of stylists each responsible for putting together 200 looks. The only team member to fly in from afar, Beck joined the other five stylists on a shuttle to a massive warehouse in Jersey City, where they instantly got to work unpacking a crate stocked with 3,000 pounds of merchandise—it took nearly till dawn.
The second morning, after a scant two hours of sleep, the style gang set about turning that 1.5-ton pile of clothes into neatly merchandised racks of pants, coats, bras, bodysuits, and shoes, so when the models arrived they could expertly snatch and grab pieces into full ensembles. Another day of lugging and hustling for the glamor of fashion with barely a moment to scarf a granola bar between guzzling coffee, all to be ready for the onslaught of day three.
The 4:30 a.m. call time came quickly for Kanye’s team, the stylists, and 20 assistants to handle the moment when more than a thousand models walked into the warehouse, all needing to be fitted with an outfit. That left the stylist about three minutes per model to put together an outfit for massive public scrutiny. No pressure.
“I was working directly with Kanye’s personal stylist dressing the women for the show," Beck says. "We looked at each model’s body type and skin color to decide what silhouette and color story she would look best in, and then passed her off to one of my assistants to finish off the look. After being dressed, her look was photographed by the creative director, who decided whether or not it was good enough to get on the bus. I was also dealing with models being sent back from him when he did not approve the look. But by 10 a.m., we piled onto the final bus traveling to Madison Square Garden.”
Once the whole herd managed to squeeze through the one backstage door for all talent and celebs, they had to quickly prepare for the afternoon presentation. West, not one known for traditional methods, ditched the typical runway show and instead put all the models onstage while he spouted Kanye-esque thoughts and debuted his Life of Pablo album in its entirety. The models, including a surprise appearance by the one and only Naomi Campbell (!), followed a strict protocol for the 90-minute show with a long list of commands that included “Show pride” and “No sexy posing.”
Beck says the Kardashian
krew crew were all gracious and thankful to the teams, with West being particularly “soft-spoken, humble, and grateful." And with that, the entourage whooshed out the door, and the stylists began the arduous five-hour task of lining up models to check in their Yeezy looks for their street clothes. But high on the adrenaline, the three hours of sleep in as many days, watching A$AP Rocky and Chance the Rapper dance right next to him, and the whole thing somehow coming together from a random phone call, Beck was happy to keep it going for a little bit longer.